If Simon Doonan is the face of Barneys New York, then Julie Gilhart has been its voice. But that’s all about to change, as Gilhart is leaving the company, along with Judy Collinson, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of womenswear, WWD reports.
Collinson will be replaced by Daniella Vitale, a Gucci vet and former colleague of newish Barneys CEO Mark Lee. Vitale will serve as chief merchant and executive vice president, overseeing all of women’s and Barneys.com operations.
It might be sad, but it’s not exactly a surprise the Collinson and Gilhart are out. Lee, who became CEO in September, surely has his own ideas about how buying should work at the retailer. What’s more, the role of department store fashion director is quickly disappearing. Michael Fink left Saks a few years ago under similar circumstances. Which means that out of the major US department stores, Linda Fargo at Bergdorf Goodman and Ken Downing at Neiman Marcus are the only “real” fashion directors left. (And they happen to be employed by the same parent company.)
We’re not worried about Julie–she’ll certainly make plenty of money consulting, and we wouldn’t be surprised if she opens her own branding firm. But what will happen to Barneys? Despite its struggles–bad management choices, late payments–Barneys has done at least one thing right: The store has been willing to take on smaller brands with smaller reputations in an era when that’s just not done. The two people at the center of that were undoubtedly Collinson and Gilhart. We hope Vitale and Lee don’t forget Barneys’ roots.